(Article changed on December 21, 2012 at 15:16)
Having given up on blogging for every major holiday, though racking my brain for some original slant on things is a good exercise, I decided nonetheless to narrate some Christmas musings--this time messages that came to me unsummoned.
I am stuck by the cruel irony of the mass murder of children and mother figures up against the ultimate celebration of a child's birth, Christmas. A young anti-Christ also emerges. To me the Mayan prediction of doomsday as today is beside the point, though thought-provoking. Then there is the solstice, which occurs about fifteen minutes from now, 10:57 am.
Every day is doomsday somewhere--be it individual death or the massive slaughter unabated in the Congo and Syria. Worlds are dying around us constantly. Our social welfare system is being kicked around by conservatives in this pioneer land of modern democracy. All subsequent ones modeled on ours include a welfare state as part of government's role as servant to the people. Why do our conservatives fight against it? Why do gun murders in this country top world statistics in this category, by far? Are these two pinnacles of destructiveness related? Why do conservatives (largely) fight for guns by misconstruing the Second Amendment? Prohibition is outdated and few people fight to keep the Eighteenth Amendment active.
As much as the birth of a child is to many the ultimate joy, so is premature death the ultimate tragedy.
Another very painful question is whether this country would be suffering so badly if the children had been non-Caucasian, farther from the Norman Rockwell stereotype. One question among many. Remember the racist bombing that killed four little girls attending Sunday School at a Baptist church in Birmingham, back in 1964, in the thick of the civil rights movement crises? Was that as painful to as many people? Not quite.
Two more minutes until the solstice, the shortest day of the year. The sky here in DC is ominous but the heavy snow coming from the west will bypass us. One more minute. Shortest day of the year, the ultimate darkness for this part of the globe.
And now the solstice. And now it's already 11:13. The Child, legend tells us, though research contradicts it, brought light to the world with the Star of Bethlehem beaming in celebration at the dawn of winter. Is this ultimate birth any solace to the grieving families in Newtown? I doubt it, even if they are religious Christians. Perhaps in future years it will become this solace, birth conquering death, more children born to the bereaved, not replacing the slaughtered ones but giving rebirth to the spirits.
Even among the bleakest prophecies regarding the fate of the new century, we derive hope from the innocent faces of children, our future, the world's future. I have to know that they will find solutions to global warming, as science advances. Some genius will figure out how to thicken the ozone layer. If we can seed clouds to produce rain, surely other controls over destructive weather are within the reach of our restless, grasping intellects.
Parents survive the death of children, shadowed always with their ghosts thereafter. Every joy thereafter revives some measure of grief.
Jesus can absorb such grief, but smiles back with tender sadness. He gave life back to Lazarus, healed the sick, but here can do no more than console. Rebirth is still a miracle and people tell of the experience of dying and being brought back to life. It's been done. Jesus rose from the dead. One day science will conquer death.
But Gilgamesh never found Enkidu, little Arielle Pozner may search for her twin brother Noah but will never find him, and with all his supernatural strength, his battle with the river god, Achilles could not bring back Patroclus.
Is hope at the bottom of the barrel for those bereaved in Newtown? Gunshot was a routine sound there. Gun owners live there at peace with their neighbors. Will other lives be saved once the parents' grief gives way to anger--become MADD, as one writer expressed it?
Will the death of the twenty children of Newtown become a children's crusade against guns? Can we rally all the little ones? Are their faces more powerful than the gun lover's passion for his/her sport?
Is this the message of Christmas 2012? Children have stood up to fight evil before, and the Children's Crusade of the late sixties reached the public with other messages. Neither is the original Children's Crusade a model in this context. But the victimization of children abounds throughout history to the present.